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Margot Fonteyn

Biography

Margot Fonteyn in action.
Margot Fonteyn in costume as Princess Aurora, Act I of The Sleeping Beauty, 1951 © ROH/Roger Wood

Royal Ballet Prima Ballerina Assoluta Margot Fonteyn (1919–91) was an iconic figure in British ballet. With Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton she was instrumental in shaping the Company, and was particularly renowned for her performances in the classics and as a muse for Ashton. Her dance partnership with Rudolf Nureyev towards the end of her career won them both worldwide fame.

Fonteyn was born Margaret Hookham in Reigate. She started ballet lessons aged four in Ealing. In 1928 her family moved to China, where she studied in Shanghai under George Goncharov. She returned to England in 1933 to study under Serfina Astafieva and in 1934 joined Sadler's Wells School. While a student she made her debut with Vic-Wells Ballet and made her solo debut that year as Young Tregennis (De Valois' The Haunted Ballroom). When Alicia Markova left the Company in 1935 Fonteyn took over many of her roles and went on to develop a great partnership with Robert Helpmann in the classical ballets. She was reaching the end of her career when she first performed with Nureyev in Giselle in February 1962. Through Nureyev Fonteyn discovered new resources, and their partnership became one of the most famed in ballet's history.

Fonteyn's dancing was distinguished by its perfect line and exquisite lyricism, qualities evident in the roles created on her by Ashton. These include Ondine, Cinderella, Chloë, Marguerite and roles in Symphonic Variations and Homage to The Queen.

News and features

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Ballet and myth: A fascination that goes back centuries

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How ancient mythological stories continue to inspire choreographers and dancers.

The ROH during World War I: Suffragettes, star names and shut doors

The ROH during World War I: Suffragettes, star names and shut doors

28 February 2014

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Lost Margot Fonteyn footage rediscovered

Lost Margot Fonteyn footage rediscovered

14 February 2014

Sleeping Beauty performance from 1959 will feature in BBC Ballet Season.

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16 October 2013

A quick guide to Kenneth MacMillan's adaptation of Shakespeare's timeless tragedy.

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100 years after its London premiere, we take a look at the origins of one of the great Russian ballets.

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Creator and Muse: Choreographers, dancers and the roles they make together

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From The Rite of Spring to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, ballet's specially-created roles.

Photos